Saturday, April 11, 2009

Conversation Stalking

On Saturday I took the boys to Sydney Park, a large section of which has been converted into an "environmentally friendly" children's playground. It's like the water conservation technologies and whale-friendly slides are still trying to cover over the formaldehyde and dioxin which surely still sit only metres beneath the bark.

The boys quickly decided that they wanted to play in the sandpits and I obliged. While they were entertaining themselves - largely through a game I'll call "Running and Falling Over Safely" - I overheard a conversation taking place about ten metres away. Two fathers, who had obviously just met, were talking about the Easter Show with some verve and wit, shuttling effortlessly between good natured-humour and rye skepticism. They ventured some interesting observations about the child psychology of rides and I found myself quickly wanting to weigh in - to offer some crucial distinctions between those kinds of rides that spin around and those go quickly in one direction, as I feel they require different dispositions and perhaps even types of courage. Then, with a segue worthy of Frank Zappa - simultaneously graceful and surreal - they moved onto scientific calculators and what had changed about them in the last ten years. It was almost irresistible; I wanted to be included - but it was hard to justify my move across to join in.

Within minutes, however, they broke up. The guy who I judged to be the more interesting of the two excused himself and wandered off. This would have made it easier to chat to the high-school physics teacher, but I had my eye on Interesting Guy and he had gone. I asked a leading question of the Sol and Dom: "Do you boys want to do something else?" When they're not mechanically contrarian, children are highly suggestible. I eyed my target across the way, at the base of the slides. "How about the slides?" "Yeahhhhh!" But as soon as we left the sandpit enclosure, Solly darted off to look at himself in the bendy mirrors. Foiled. "Dom, do you still want to go on the slides?" "Yessss! Sliiiii!" Dom and I began to wander towards the slides, but about half-way there, Interesting Guy again shifted position, now moving in the direction of Sol and the funny mirrors. "Dom. Where's Solly?" Dom saw Sol over by the bendy mirrors and began running at him. With Dom's pace, we'd beat Interesting Guy there - and so would avoid having to make the approach. Interesting Guy stopped, in fact, just near the bendy mirrors - his boy wanted to spin around on...a Spinning Around Pole Thing. The distance between us wasn't great, but it was still too far to "chat." If I already knew him I'd be able to call out a few things, but it's not the way you start an adult relationship in a playground. Dom, however, began to walk over in the direction of Interesting Guy.

It looked set. I checked myself in a bendy mirror. My head appeared enormous, but perhaps this would be seen by him as a sign of intelligence. But again, disaster. Without warning, Interesting Guy left once once more. This time I'd had enough of his toying with my affections and so I decided to give up. It was just too humiliating, and maybe he might even think I was stalking him. After a while I looked up and noticed that he'd gone back to the sandpits, to see his old flame, the maths teacher. Tart. If he couldn't see my conversational value, then that was his problem, not mine; I didn't want him, or his interesting conversation.

After about half an hour of distorting ourselves in mirrors (during which most of the time I appeared small and insignificant), Solly made an announcement: "I want to play on the bridge." OK - the bridge. We started heading over and who should we see at the top of the hill near the bridge? Right. Interesting Guy. I couldn't get my hopes up, though - he'd hurt me too much already. I hung off to the side of the hill, playing hard to get, adjusting children's clothing and applying sunscreen. When he looked towards me I coyly looked away. Eventually, contact was forced. Dom decided that he was going to climb the hill to get onto the bridge and this would require some parental supervision. Eventually I was standing almost by his side, looking at our kids and occasionally giving him a smile. His own two children were racing, with the bridge serving as part of their course. As they approached they were pushing each other out of the way. Interesting Guy gently - but firmly - intoned: "Hey, be nice." The boy gave way and then the girl shot past him on the bridge. The boy, now aggrieved, called out, "Hey!" Here was my opportunity.

Smiling at his kids - or perhaps even "Kids-in-General" - I offered. "Nice guys finish last!" He smiled, or rather winced, back at me and said "C'mon kids, it's time to go. We've got to go see Aunty Millie." Yeah right. I bet they don't even have an Aunty Millie. And it was a joke.

Dr Prisonsong baby later suggested that my relentless pursuit combined with my tight pink t-shirt might have suggested a homosexual advance. If so, I'm kicking myself. I can't believe I fell for a homophobe.

Friday, April 10, 2009


On Wednesday, Dr Prisonsongbaby (Dr P) and I went to a periodontist in Market Street, dragging Solly and Dom along with us. Our mouths were a disaster - and half of them still are. (Scalar root planing is fairly intense and so the good Dr C only did half of his work - concentrating on just the left sides of our mouths). The number of needles required to complete the process without toe-curling pain was five for Dr P and four for me, with Dr P lucky to even get a big shiny silver spine straight into the roof of her mouth. That must have been special.

The result was that we left the Market Street surgery mid-morning looking less like dental victims than stroke victims - with the left sides of our faces falling off like Dali's clocks. Dr P actually suggested that we looked like we'd actually met at a Young Stroke Victim Support Network and had later started a family together. Every time I tried to say a word beginning with "S" my mouth made a farting sound. The producers of Australian Story would have loved it.

To understand dentistry, forget the high grades, white coats, and city addresses. Dentistry is a trade. Our periodontist has good postgraduate qualifications in dental medicine - but, more importantly, lots of shiny metal tools and a pair of extraordinarily strong wrists. There's something incongruous about it all - a branch of medicine in the twenty-first century that actually looks like dentistry does. It doesn't take a massive leap of historical imagination - if we discounted, of course, the advanced degrees and a working knowledge of anaesthetics - to realise that dentistry retains much of it barbershop origins. 

Dr C sharpened his scraper on his scraper sharpener, planted the saliva sucker, and just got in there and filed and chiseled for around forty minutes. He didn't even fill. He was red and huffing by the end of this exquisite and well-credentialled pounding of my face.

"That might have been quite tiring but it's over now," he said.
"Actually, it looks kinda tiring for you."
"It is - it's exhausting, actually."
He let out a long sigh.

I wouldn't encourage you to feel pity for him. This is certainly not the moral of the blog: "feel sorry for dentists." We gave him more than $1000 bucks to go ahead with the ordeal. I doubt he'd still be so committed to the health of people's teeth and gums if it was him who was paying for the operations. 

A stupid point to finish on, no doubt.